UK receivers: Alex Montgomery has a flair for the dramatic

SCOUTING THE CATS: RECEIVERS

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 18, 2013 

Alex Montgomery

  • SEASON OPENER

    Aug. 31: vs. Western Kentucky at Nashville, 7 p.m.

    HOME OPENER

    Sept. 7: vs. Miami (Ohio), noon

  • This is the fourth in a series of nine stories analyzing the UK football team position by position. Coming Tuesday: Offensive line

  • Scouting the wide receivers

    The main man: Kentucky is still searching for one. It returns four players from last season, but Demarco Robinson, A.J. Legree, Rashad Cunningham and Daryl Collins combined for 57 catches, 581 yards with zero touchdowns. There has been chatter during camp that Legree and Robinson are emerging as potential playmakers, but a few of the highly touted incoming wideouts could fill that role, too.

    The supporting cast: When Neal Brown and staff were running this updated "Air Raid" offense at Texas Tech, they never got on the bus with fewer than 10 options at wide receiver. They like to have stockpiles of them, using players who can make plays in different ways. They'd like to see some true playmakers emerge, especially from the group of newcomers like Jeff Badet, Alex Montgomery, Ryan Timmons and Javess Blue. Timmons and Montgomery have drawn considerable praise from their coaches during fall camp and likely will be regulars in the rotation. A collection of walk-ons also has impressed in camp and one or two could be in the rotation.

    Outlook: A group maligned for its lack of production and bounty of dropped balls in the spring seemed to have turned it around before Saturday's scrimmage, when some of those familiar problems came back. But Brown believes the receivers are going to be far better this season than they were last season. He's created a diverse group of players of varying speed and skill level — including making former tight end Ronnie Shields a full-time receiver — and it could turn out to be special. It helps that the new players have been pushing the veteran guys, making everyone better, coaches have said.

    JENNIFER SMITH

Mark Guandolo couldn't have scripted it better if he had tried.

His Cypress Bay High School team in south Florida was down six points in its state semifinal game. It had less than two minutes on the clock and managed to drive the ball the length of the field.

Cue the dramatic lighting and intense music.

"I can still remember it," Guandolo recounted. "Time was running down — I can still see the 0:00 on the clock — and Alex comes down with it. It was like a scene out of a movie. It was crazy."

It really happened and Alex Montgomery, one of Kentucky's freshman wide receivers, had the starring role.

That play, among countless others, is what Guandolo will remember about his former All-State player who went on to lead the Lightning to a state championship.

In the finals, Montgomery had nine catches for a state-record 199 yards and three touchdowns, including a much discussed one-handed grab.

"He just seems to have a knack and a belief that he's going to come down with the ball," Guandolo said of Montgomery, who played in a run-oriented offense but still managed to catch 69 passes for 1,448 yards and 17 touchdowns over his last two seasons.

"He's made some fantastic catches, interceptions with one hand," Guandolo said. "It got pretty easy as a coach because if there was ever a doubt — whether we were playing seven-on-seven or games — if I needed a play, I'd just tell the quarterback to throw it up to Alex."

His coach knew Montgomery would come down with it. He always did.

That's become a running theme in Kentucky's fall camp as well.

On at least five occasions Coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown have singled out Montgomery for having a standout day, making a key catch.

His teammates can't stop talking about the 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver, either.

"He just makes plays," wide receiver Lucas Witt said of Montgomery. "It seems like when we need a play, seems like Alex has made them the last week and a half. He's made a lot of big catches. He's a big body with big hands and he's not afraid of contact."

Balls go in the air and Montgomery comes down with them.

That will be a big plus for an offense that has been on a single-minded quest to find playmakers for the past season. The freshman wide receiver likely will be one of them.

"He's making plays," Brown said of Montgomery after a recent practice. "He made several plays in that third-down blitz pickup. ... He's winning one-on-one opportunities and making grabs."

Stoops has been impressed with Montgomery's consistency and how hard he's worked, not often things mentioned about true freshmen.

"It's all about your work ethic and I'm a hard worker," Montgomery said when asked about his strengths at Media Day, the last time freshmen were allowed to talk to reporters. "I learn plays well, so that shouldn't be a problem. I'm dedicated and try to show a lot of effort."

It was for all of those reasons that his high school coach felt as though the two-way star was overlooked by some of the bigger schools, earning just a three-star rating.

"We didn't throw the ball a lot," Guandolo explained. "We had a great running game, but we did try to get him the ball. And then in the playoffs, he really took off and did it for us on both sides of the ball. He definitely got overlooked. ... Hopefully he'll use it to motivate and prove people wrong."

That's definitely how Guandolo would script it.


This is the fourth in a series of nine stories analyzing the UK football team position by position. Coming Tuesday: Offensive line

SCOUTING THE CATS

Running backs: Raymond Sanders standing out in deep backfield

Quarterbacks: Start or not, Jalen Whitlow figures to be part of plan

Receivers:Alex Montgomery has a flair for the dramatic

Tight ends: Anthony Kendrick might be a hidden gem



» Roster | Schedule


SEASON OPENER

Aug. 31: vs. Western Kentucky at Nashville, 7 p.m.

HOME OPENER

Sept. 7: vs. Miami (Ohio), noon

Scouting the wide receivers

The main man: Kentucky is still searching for one. It returns four players from last season, but Demarco Robinson, A.J. Legree, Rashad Cunningham and Daryl Collins combined for 57 catches, 581 yards with zero touchdowns. There has been chatter during camp that Legree and Robinson are emerging as potential playmakers, but a few of the highly touted incoming wideouts could fill that role, too.

The supporting cast: When Neal Brown and staff were running this updated "Air Raid" offense at Texas Tech, they never got on the bus with fewer than 10 options at wide receiver. They like to have stockpiles of them, using players who can make plays in different ways. They'd like to see some true playmakers emerge, especially from the group of newcomers like Jeff Badet, Alex Montgomery, Ryan Timmons and Javess Blue. Timmons and Montgomery have drawn considerable praise from their coaches during fall camp and likely will be regulars in the rotation. A collection of walk-ons also has impressed in camp and one or two could be in the rotation.

Outlook: A group maligned for its lack of production and bounty of dropped balls in the spring seemed to have turned it around before Saturday's scrimmage, when some of those familiar problems came back. But Brown believes the receivers are going to be far better this season than they were last season. He's created a diverse group of players of varying speed and skill level — including making former tight end Ronnie Shields a full-time receiver — and it could turn out to be special. It helps that the new players have been pushing the veteran guys, making everyone better, coaches have said.

JENNIFER SMITH

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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